Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

St. Adolphe knows life on a flood plain

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If the Red River knows no borders, then neither do flood fears: as the Fargo, N.D., area braces for the worst of the Red River's swell today, residents in flood-prone St. Adolphe, Man. are keeping an eye out for their crest.

In some ways, they're setting an example. In North Dakota on Friday, Fargo Mayor Dennis Walaker praised southern Manitoba's flood-fighting prowess. "It's nice for them to look at us," said Gilles Morin, prepping the St. Adolphe Curling Club for a bud, spud and steak night on Saturday.

Winnipeg's floodway is at the top of Walaker's mind, as he seeks to secure a similar diversion around his city, at a whopping cost of $1.2 billion. But he was also impressed by the fact southern Manitoba properties on the river's flood plain sit on elevated plots.

St. Adolphe is one of those towns. In 1997, the "flood of the century" devastated the community of about 1,700 people, located just 30 kilometres south of Winnipeg. Now, a permanent dike built to the '97 crest level protects many of the town's homes, while other houses were elevated to sit above that peak water level.

So far, the strategy has worked, mostly. "There's no issue with anybody's homes," said St. Adolphe resident Leo Van Den Bussche. "It's just an inconvenience. As long as water never gets above '97 levels, there's no fear."

No fear, but lots of potential inconvenience. Last year, flooding meant only one of the town's four exits was open: the bridge connecting St. Adolphe to Pembina Highway. That meant some members of the St. Adolphe Curling Club had to take a boat over flooded fields to the club's season wind-up. But with that bridge now closed, residents are more concerned about being left an island -- and the evacuation that could require.

Morin remembers being forced out of St. Adolphe during the 1979 flood. It was a blast back then, as a kid, to live at the Fort Garry Hotel, he said; now, as a homeowner, the prospect is much less enticing.

Also of concern: when will Winnipeg raise the floodway gates to protect the city.

That can push water back towards St. Adolphe, with more flooding rushing up from the United States. And if this water-crush keeps happening so often, some in St. Adolphe hope Manitoba will take the lead in protecting residents in the Red River's flood plain. "It's affecting a lot of us," Morin said.

 

melissa.martin@freepress.mb.ca

 

 

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 21, 2010 A9

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